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The little virus that could is not done with us, is it?

As I am writing this blog on May 29, 11:30 m CST, I have 20 more days of the highly erratic corona virus death data from the US, Germany and the world. Over 100,000 Americans have died of the corona virus infections in not quite three months since the early March of 2020. I do not know how to process this tragedy, other than to say that most of it could have been avoided, if we had a different administration in Washington and we had not been mining literally every resource, including humans, over the last 40 years.

The merciless virus has illuminated every wrong we have committed over several decades, including that terrible murder by the police in Minneapolis this week. Coming from Poland and knowing what I know, the detached behavior of the four police officers who committed this particular crime was reminiscent of the WWII German soldiers milling about the countless execution sites for men, women and children, while being filmed by their comrades. Or taking a photo with a freshly h…
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Failure of US Handling of the Corona Virus Pandemic: Germany vs US

Normally, I never write blogs every three days, but here I go. Since I am a scientist, not a politician, my quantitative assessment will be based on a careful analysis of the available data.

The bottom line of this blog is shown in Figure 0.  First, there are all incremental deaths in the US over and above German deaths multiplied by four to scale the German population to the size of the US population (the blue curve).  Second, for the reasons described below, one can subtract 1/3 of the US deaths that occurred in nursing homes.  These deaths have been caused by 40 years of neglect and the horrific state of the US for-profit industry that mines old people. The remaining 35,000 incremental deaths in the US (the red curve) can be attributed to the disastrous policies of the federal government under Trump.  That's nearly twelve 9/11 body counts in the US, with more to come.

My dear fellow Americans, please ponder this plot if you want to continue supporting Trump.  In terms of the nu…

May 7 2020 Update on the COVID-19 Pandemic

Well, friends, many things have happened since my last update of April 21, 2020.  I should advise the more sensitive readers to skip this post, because some of the language and content may be unsuited for their delicate taste buds.

Earlier today, I listened to and watched on Zoom an excellent seminar given by a friend from the Imperial College in England.  The esoteric subject of the talk was how surface charge and rock-oil-brine interactions limit or help oil recovery from difficult reservoirs.  The audience consisted of about 110 people from the Imperial College, Edinburgh, KAUST, Oxford, TU Delft, Yale, and several Chinese and US universities, and companies.  It was all great and would not warrant a report in this blog, were it not for the fact that in the last two minutes someone hijacked the computer of one of the participants and "bombed" our meeting by posting a video of a young white man rubbing with his erect penis the genitals of a 4-6 month old baby girl. I assume…

The COVID-19 pandemic, an update

I needed to update my model through April 20. I have not changed the model parameters for two weeks, and I only had slight changes before. Thus, the model is stable and predictive, given the faulty, incomplete data at hand. The model points out that the reported number of deaths around the world is lagging. For the world, my cautious estimate is 30,000 missing COVID-19 deaths in late March and April, see Figures 1 and 2. My simple model points out clearly that the more complex models may not be predictive, while fitting the erratic data better.

My friend ecologist, Professor Bill Rees, just reminded me that his mentor, Crawford "Buzz" Holling, insisted on repeating to his teams whenever they got bogged down in disputes over accuracy vs precision: "It is better to be approximately correct than very precisely wrong."

The New York Times just reported 28,000 of incremental deaths worldwide since January 2020.  Most of these deaths occurred in late March and April 2020,…

The corona virus: What will it do to us? - Part I

Yesterday, late afternoon, we visited our neighbors some 600 m from our house.  My wife and I made our first contact with other humans in 8 days. We kept social distance, sitting outside and listening to the birds twirling around in spring love and to the crescendos of insects, and watching two wild turkeys silently pecking their way through the lush green grass right behind us.  Other than our four voices, the silence was deafening, no cars, no planes, and no human voices afar.  When we returned home, walking up our wooded hill in complete darkness, the bright stars were not dimmed by the usual halo of Austin lights a few miles away.  The Silent Earth was trying to tell us something. Again. This time around, the nature's silence is caused by the little virus that is undoing the global civilization so many take for granted.  Why did a tiny creature less that one-thousandth the width of a human hair bring the mighty, seemingly invincible human steam roller to a halt?

Before I refle…

The Essence I Suppose - Part 2

When shown the images of two real donkeys, who used to be our adopted children, my little two year old grandson immediately pointed to his book, to a picture of a donkey with a sombrero and guitar.  He then carried on with the animals he knows, the mythical unicorns and other creatures, each endowed with different human traits.  He quickly lost interest in the real donkeys.

"Our children already live in a world where there are thousands of times more toy animals than there are animal animals. Animals are no longer objects of firsthand knowledge and acquaintance.... They are objects of mythology. And the day is not far off when the fabulous quality of animals in fables - the hare, the wolf, the bear -- will extend beyond allegory and take on the dimension of make-believe, like dragons and griffins." A quote from Andrey Bitov, "The last Bear."

Let's fast forward 26 years in age and move to Saudi Arabia.  Here is a final essay from Hussain A., a student in my fall…

The Essence, I Suppose - Part I

Our anthropocene world is rapidly becoming a post-industrial wasteland, where most people are impoverished, left behind, and may not know how to live with dignity. These desperate individuals need a framework to counteract the bad things that are happening in their lives, and they need basic means of survival: a functioning family, home, medical care and decent education for their children. In too many countries, including the US and UK, poverty and desperation lead to voting decisions that are suicidal. Similarly, so many of the educated and affluent people are disoriented and running scared, because they too do not understand the deep and complex connections between the human economy and nature.

Over the last twelve years, my small-scale solution to this overwhelming problem has been to teach a class that brings many of the elements of human-nature interactions together and roots them in science, mostly in thermodynamics. This semester I had 25 graduate students in my class, plu…